DISCLAIMER: Since I read Write. Publish. Repeat by the same men who wrote this novel, I knew coming in that this novel was written as a response to a bet made in good fun. Consequently, my review is likely skewed toward that bias.
However, the authors themselves gave me a free copy via their email list, so I feel compelled to review this out of the goodness of my heart. I shall do my best to try and write this review as if I were to review any other book I come across — with the same level of care and thoughtfulness I’ve given in the past.
3 out of 5 slices of Turkey Pie
Unicorn Western (#1) by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant is exactly what it says: a “unicorn western.” Think any Clint Eastwood movie, throw in a gruff, snarky unicorn named Edward, sprinkle in some mysterious far-off land called the Realm, thrust a monkey wrench in a wedding with the impending arrival of the Big Bad Doom Guy, and add just a pinch of humor — Voila. It’s a nice blend of the genres and a fairly quick, light read.
But if you drink too much of the apple brew that is this tale, you’ll encounter some hiccups.
What I Thought Didn’t Work Well
Plot and Style
There were a few moments while reading that made me go, “Wait, what? Wha?” In addition to some typos scattered near the end and beginning of the book, what made me stop in my tracks were moments where plot and style were concerned.
Marshal Clint Gulliver, the main character, is the character that I, as the reader, stay with the most. Therefore, unless it’s the case of a 3rd-person limited POV, if I’m shown his thoughts, I expect his thoughts. If he sees something, I, as the reader, want to see it.
So when the villain finally makes his grand entrance in the second-to-last chapter, after all the build-up and suspense of his arrival, I want to see him.
Instead, I get the following:
Clint took several steps backward for a better view of Kold. Edward walked up and stood beside him.
“He’s changed,” Clint whispered.
“He’s gone dark,” Edward said. “Wait until you see Cerberus, wherever he is. It will be far worse on the donor’s end.”
And that’s it. I get a description of Cerberus, the dark unicorn that the villain uses for his own gain, later, but not a picture of the villain himself. Is it because he’s so evil that I shouldn’t be able to see him? Is his change so shocking that Clint blocks it from his mind? If so, why would he want a better view of the guy?
I don’t buy it. And there are other moments in the plot that I don’t buy either. For example, near the end of the novel, Clint sends his self-proclaimed sidekick — Teddy, the orphan — to check on Clint’s fiancee, Mai at the Otel. But Teddy is nowhere to be found after that. Even when Clint goes back to the Otel himself. It felt like he was written out of the plot for plot’s sake before the climactic battle.
I ain’t buyin’ that.
But here’s what I do buy (even though I got this book, technically, for free).
What I Thought Worked Well
Characters, Setting, and Theme
It is my personal belief that all artists, not just writers, should be in touch with their inner child and have a desire to be imaginative, be bold, and be at play at all times.
Platt and Truant, in Unicorn Western, display that on the page, and it’s a joy to read. For example, when Clint admonishes Edward for drinking too much apple brew before going out to find Hassle Stone and Dharma Kold, Edward quips back, ” ‘I weigh fourteen hundred pounds and am magic. … ‘Get off my back, Mom.'” Not only is Edward subverting the typical femininity of associated with unicorns and the unicorn trope as a whole; it fits with the rest of the humorous tone of the book. It also makes the duo fun to watch.
Thematically, well… I don’t want to give away too much, since that’s getting into spoiler territory. And I’ve already given a lot away in the previous section. But I will say this:
This won’t be the last book I read from Platt and Truant. I know that this is one of their earlier works, and I’m willing to give them some slack because of that. The two of them clearly have been bitten by the writing bug, and have the fiery hearts of storytellers that know how a story should sound and feel.
But I’m also hoping that they’ve found a good editor that gets the kinks and bumps out. This novel felt a little on the raw side, like crystal ore straight from the ground.
Precious, but not yet polished.